The growth of personal mobility systems based on the common sidewalk (like bicycles and small escooter shared) can lead to a certain amount of actual personal mobility. But also to many clogged sidewalks, injured cyclists and pedestrians and questionable business models.
Fortunately, there are other solutions to the problem of the last kilometer that are less dangerous and annoying, although in this case very imaginative. Like Poimo, this one inflatable e-bike prototype under development at the University of Tokyo.
Closed it looks like a large waxed tablecloth that is in a backpack. Open, Poimo (POrtable and Inflatable MObility) can be quickly inflated with a small compressor. A comfortable and intrinsically safe mobility system that can be deflated and stored in the backpack (remains to be seen how easily) when you arrive at your destination.
Poimo's body is made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). It is easily customizable and researchers have experimented with other shapes, such as movable sofas, which we are told would be ideal for relaxing in "waterfront resorts".
It takes just over a minute to inflate Poimo to an optimal operating pressure (the one that guarantees a stable and comfortable seat).
The last step is to connect the rigid components: wheels, brushless motor, battery and a wireless controller integrated into the handlebar. The total weight of Poimo is 5,5 kilograms (the inflated structure is only 2,3 kg), but the researchers tell us that this is only a product. Researchers see this as a starting point that can only improve.
Poimo was born from the desire to exploit the techniques underlying soft robots to create a safe vehicle that minimizes the risk of injury or damage in the event of an accident. An important factor for personal mobility systems that operate in spaces shared by pedestrians.
Ryuma Niiyama, one of the authors of a recent article presented at the 2020 HRI conference, said: “We believe that our inflatable mobility, different from existing mobility systems and capable of creating new relationships with people, will be useful as last-mile mobility for the city in the future."
The researchers tested Poimo in Japan, also making it passable by passersby. People found it firmer than they expected and fun to drive.